China’s raw materials strategy: The next chapter in the US-China rivalry? – by Bashar Malkawi (Policy Forum – January 24, 2020)


“Without a domestic supply, the United States must rely on Chinese
sources of rare earths to build ‘Made in America’ military equipment.
It makes little sense to rely upon a security competitor for access to essential
military materials. Rare earths are not the only strategic

metal. Lithium, chromium, cobalt, graphite, copper, and manganese
are also essential for industrial purposes.”

The United States cannot rely upon products that originate in, or supply chains that run through, a potential adversary, Bashar Malkawi writes.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), publicly released in 2013 and formerly named ‘One Belt, One Road’, would, at first look, seem to be a force for good. China views the BRI as a way to enhance its trade connectivity, reduce surplus domestic industrial capacity, develop poorer interior provinces, promote energy security, and internationalise Chinese industrial and financial standards.

The BRI builds China’s commercial ties abroad by financing, constructing, and developing major transport, energy, technology, and other infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.

Nevertheless, some perceive the BRI as a form of colonialism, whereby China will exploit smaller economies for its own benefit. By providing loans for energy and infrastructure projects, ownership of such developments will pass to China if the loanee countries, overextended with debt, cannot service the loans.

Sri Lanka can serve as an example. China provided the loans and a Chinese company, China Harbor Engineering Company, one of China’s largest state-owned enterprises, constructed the Hambantota port development project in the country through the BRI. Unfortunately, the project did not succeed economically, and Sri Lanka defaulted on the loan.

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